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Is Your COPD a Workplace Illness?

The law allows employees to file unemployment claims for illnesses caused by their work environment. Examples of this include many types of lung diseases including cancer, asthma, and COPD. COPD only received acceptance by the federal government as a workplace illness in 2013. Read more to learn what sufferers of COPD need to know.

How COPD Develops

Smoking is one of the most common causes of COPD, but the inflammatory lung condition can develop from regularly breathing in any gases or particulates that affect the lung tissue. Sufferers often develop conditions like chronic bronchitis and emphysema that contribute to the disease. The illness gradually worsens despite treatment.

How Workplaces Contribute

The air quality of many work environments may affect the respiratory health of workers. Grain and flour dust could cause problems for people in grain manufacturing or the farming industry, for example. Masonry workers could face exposure to silica dust when cutting concrete or brick.

Repeated exposure may lead to the development of COPD. Some employers may neglect proper safety training or cannot provide safety gear. Other cases may arise despite the best efforts to protect employees.

When Coverage Applies

The early stages of COPD are sometimes mild enough for people to continue working. However, people with the disease need to take care of their lungs to slow the progression of the illness. The care could include a move to a cleaner work environment and less physical work if shortness of breath occurs. The changes may mean fewer work hours or lower pay.

A worker’s compensation claim should take place when people begin to experience losses, either from missed work or from medical bills related to a workplace illness. People that remain healthy enough to work could still have excessive medical costs related to prescriptions and visits to the doctor. Worker’s compensation should cover these expenses.

When Complications Arise

COPD often affect smokers. An employee that smokes and works in an environment that could cause COPD has a higher risk of developing the illness. They may also have a more complicated claim. The worker’s compensation board may want to investigate the workplace to see if the air quality was poor enough to cause lung disease.

It is impossible to determine if someone developed COPD from poor air quality or a smoking habit. An investigation into the case could still look at the time the employee worked at the company and how long and how much they smoked. People in this situation may want to consult a lawyer in case a denial of their claim occurs.

When Filing Disability

COPD sufferers may experience the disease differently. Some can keep their condition controlled enough to allow them to work full time for years. Other COPD patients develop severe symptoms quickly and can no longer work. An inability to work does not mean a choice between social security disability (SSDI) and worker’s compensation payments.

Ailing employees can earn up to 80 percent of their prior income through a combination of SSDI and worker’s compensation payments. However, to qualify for SSDI payments, the individual must have an illness too severe to allow them to work for at least a year. The Social Security Administration may need proof from a doctor of the severity.

COPD sufferers can live comfortably for many years if they follow the instructions of their doctors. Employees should never feel they must work in an environment that worsens their health and takes years from their life. At Gelman Gelman Wiskow & McCarthy LLC, we can help you learn your options for either disability or worker’s compensation. Contact us today to review your claim potential.

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